There used to be a time – and because I’m older than the hills I recall it well – when it was verboten to remake any well-regarded film that had been shot in color. The so-called (faulty) logic being that the same filmgoers who shelled out their hard-earned dough for Speed 2 or The Backlot Murders would tolerate a remake of the Robert Wise chiller The Haunting or a Gus Van Sant take on Hitchcock’s Psycho for the simple fact that both earlier iterations of these films were – shudder and gasp! – presented originally in black and white. Never mind that Jan de Bont’s interpretation of Wise was a well-intentioned snooze fiesta or Van Sant, usually an inspired filmmaker in his own right, totally missed the mark with his nearly frame by frame remake of Hitchcock. Black and white was considered a thing reserved only for cinephiles who basked in the latest issue of Film Comment while sipping on a latte. And while that sentiment is horribly ill-informed and misguided (at least to this fan of the movies), it was prevalent and, to some extent, still is.
But then a funny thing happened.
Slowly, some of the classic films that had been veritable technicolor baths of every shade of Crayola you could imagine began to enter the Hollywood assembly line of remakes. Overnight, everything was on the table: The Karate Kid, Fright Night, Red Dawn, A Star Is Born (itself originally a black and white flick for its first version in 1937), A Nightmare On Elm Street, Child’s Play, Dumbo, The Lion King, Death Wish, Evil Dead, True Grit, Halloween and Total Recall were just a few of the films presented originally in color that have undergone the meat grinder of “re-imaginings.” And, no real surprise, nine times out of ten the remake always paled in comparison to its original source material; Hollywood is funny that way.
Joining the above list of ill-thought out remakes comes this bit of harrowing news from our undead brethren over at Deadline: Next up on the remake chopping block is a film widely considered to be one of the eeriest of the horror genre, director Alejandro Amenabar’s 2001 film The Others.
Set in a misty and bereft World War Two England home front, The Others concerns itself with a woman awaiting the return of her soldier husband while she studiously looks after their two children on a sprawling country estate. The children are believed to have a deadly photosensitivity that renders them especially susceptible to the daytime outside world, thus they are protectively sequestered away by their doting mother. And then strange things begin to happen. A door unlocked when it should be bolted tight, the sounds of phantom footsteps echoing throughout the great and darkened hallways of the mansion and…whispers; whispers everywhere and nowhere all at once. The film casts a pall of dread for two hours and accomplishes what few other films in the horror genre can sustain – it holds that feeling of doom and fear like an accomplished maestro, never letting its audiences off the hook until the final, devastating moments. Like I said: a classic of the genre.
As shamelessly alluded to above, The Others is receiving a bona-fide remake courtesy of Universal and Sentient Entertainment, who are teaming up for this new version. The news itself was anticipated after it was reported back in April that Sentient was developing this new take, but yesterday’s announcement about Universal stepping in to option the rights from and partner up with Sentient makes the proceedings almost as official as it gets in this crazy day and age. Deadline also reports that “at this time it is unknown how much this film will take from the original storyline. Insider say execs are currently meeting with writers to adapt the script.”
So there you have it, and while this film buff doesn’t want to go on record as saying this is an unwise remake decision – after all, I love such remakes as Scorsese’s The Departed and Jackson’s King Kong – I do wring my hands and fret over the many potential pitfalls that might yet await this new vision of The Others. Black and white films and color ones all seem to be ripe for the picking in recent years and perhaps we would be best served to recognize the utter brilliance of filmmaker Sam Raimi commenting on the remake phenomenon: “If a remake is not good, no one wants to see it and, again, it doesn’t hurt the original.” If the man who brought audiences such gems as the original Evil Dead and the superlative Spider-Man 2 can keep a cool and philosophical head on this matter, there may yet be hope for all of us.